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AT WHAT COST

MODERN CAPITALISM AND THE FUTURE OF HEALTH

A grim, well-researched case that capitalism is wildly dysfunctional but that reform is possible, if not imminent.

A study of the disastrous collision of capitalism and public health.

Capitalism gives off a fusty air, so many leaders prefer the term free market to describe the system that dominates global economies—and whose flaws are no secret to scholars, including Freudenberg, an expert on public health policy. Since the peak of the so-called “welfare state” in the 1960s, writes the author, the U.S. has adopted neoliberalism, whose strategies of deregulation, tax cuts, privatization, and austerity grant capital markets supreme authority. After the introduction, Freudenberg presents six long chapters on the dismal state of what he calls “the pillars of health.” Our global food system has largely eliminated famine, replacing it with an epidemic of overnutrition, obesity, and diet-related diseases, the result of an avalanche of low-quality, superprocessed, calorie-dense quasi-foods. Education leads to better health, but declining government support has led to an explosion of private enterprise. Charter schools suck money from public funds with the promise of a cheaper, better product, but they have not delivered. For-profit colleges verge on scams, and adolescents are becoming addicted to their electronic devices at the expense of human interaction, a situation that causes depression and anxiety. In the sole chapter that focuses exclusively on health care, the author discusses the war on cancer. He shows how pharmaceutical companies, in their obsessive search for a “blockbuster drug,” churn out wildly expensive chemotherapeutics that may or may not prolong life a few months. In his conclusion, Freudenberg works hard to project optimism. Unions remain moribund, but low-paid workers continue to organize to press for better conditions; others have launched cooperative business ventures. Though the federal government is consistently gridlocked, the author describes state and city programs that provide child care, family leave, affordable public transportation, and living wages. Ultimately, these efforts must coalesce into a mass movement with political clout, and Freudenberg remains hopeful.

A grim, well-researched case that capitalism is wildly dysfunctional but that reform is possible, if not imminent.

Pub Date: March 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-19-007862-1

Page Count: 392

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 23, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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WHAT THIS COMEDIAN SAID WILL SHOCK YOU

Maher calls out idiocy wherever he sees it, with a comedic delivery that veers between a stiletto and a sledgehammer.

The comedian argues that the arts of moderation and common sense must be reinvigorated.

Some people are born snarky, some become snarky, and some have snarkiness thrust upon them. Judging from this book, Maher—host of HBO’s Real Time program and author of The New New Rules and When You Ride Alone, You Ride With bin Laden—is all three. As a comedian, he has a great deal of leeway to make fun of people in politics, and he often delivers hilarious swipes with a deadpan face. The author describes himself as a traditional liberal, with a disdain for Republicans (especially the MAGA variety) and a belief in free speech and personal freedom. He claims that he has stayed much the same for more than 20 years, while the left, he argues, has marched toward intolerance. He sees an addiction to extremism on both sides of the aisle, which fosters the belief that anyone who disagrees with you must be an enemy to be destroyed. However, Maher has always displayed his own streaks of extremism, and his scorched-earth takedowns eventually become problematic. The author has something nasty to say about everyone, it seems, and the sarcastic tone starts after more than 300 pages. As has been the case throughout his career, Maher is best taken in small doses. The book is worth reading for the author’s often spot-on skewering of inept politicians and celebrities, but it might be advisable to occasionally dip into it rather than read the whole thing in one sitting. Some parts of the text are hilarious, but others are merely insulting. Maher is undeniably talented, but some restraint would have produced a better book.

Maher calls out idiocy wherever he sees it, with a comedic delivery that veers between a stiletto and a sledgehammer.

Pub Date: May 21, 2024

ISBN: 9781668051351

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

From the Pocket Change Collective series

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

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Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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